North-Central Section - 42nd Annual Meeting (24–25 April 2008)

Paper No. 6
Presentation Time: 10:00 AM


ALDEN-COE, Clara N.1, BANTNER, Lauren R.1, COOPER, Benjamin K.1, DIBELLA, Thomas R.1, HIGGINS, Joseph T.1, PARRIMAN, Matthew W.1, PIETRZYK, Denise M.1, PRIDE, Douglas E.2, SPENCE, Lauren K.1 and WILLS, Timothy D.1, (1)Columbus, 43210, (2)School of Earth Sciences, Ohio State University, 125 S. Oval Mall, Columbus, OH 43210,

Nine Freshman Seminar students and their leader met two hours each week during the Autumn of 2007 to discuss “Mineral Depletion—Stealth Bomb of the 21st Century”. A resource hexagon (the “hex”) was developed with which to evaluate the resource position of U.S. citizens. The six sides of the hexagon represent the basic requirements for human existence: water, food, and aspects of shelter, to which we added population pressure. “Middle-of-the-road” projections for the U.S. population grow to 338 million by 2025, 404 million by 2050, and 571 million by 2100 (U.S. Census). One hundred years seemed appropriate for our discussions because it includes “now” yet requires thought to project into the future (~ three generations). We decided to focus on the requirements of an individual citizen, which can be evaluated fairly easily, and extrapolate our results to the population as a whole.

Fresh water in North America appear to be adequate at least for the foreseeable future, as do supplies of fertilizers for food production (potash, nitrogen, and phosphorous) and the basic construction materials (limestone, clay and gypsum for concrete; clay for brick; silica, lime and trona for glass; and gypsum for drywall and Plaster-of-Paris). Potential problems exist in maintaining sustainable supplies of energy, and of a number of important metals. The U.S. imports significant quantities of a large number of metals because it is cheaper to do so, and because environmental concerns with mining have made it easier to just look elsewhere – the future of metal production in the U.S. remains clouded. Coal reserves are sufficient for the foreseeable future (250+ years), but reserves of oil and natural gas are a concern. Continued research on clean-burning technology, and anticipated advances in alternative energy production provide hope on the energy front. All-in-all, the conclusion of the seminar was that the resource future for the U.S. remains reasonably bright, at least for several generations.